Canada honors Gosling for Java

February 22nd, 2007

James Gosling of SunJames Gosling was honored for his role in inventing Java by being named an officer of the Order of Canada. The Order of Canada, Canada’s highest civilian honour, recognizes outstanding lifetime achievement and contributions to society and the country.

“James Gosling, a vice-president of Sun Microsystems Inc. of Santa Clara, Calif., has been named an officer of the Order of Canada, the office of the Governor General announced on Monday. … Gosling was responsible for the original design of the Java programming language and implemented the original compiler for the so-called Java virtual machine. Java programs are compiled or converted into machine code by a program called a compiler when they run.” (source)

It not often that computer scientists are recognized like this for their contributions to society. Sure, there are many ways that we recognize our own, such as fellowships in processional societies or the Turning award, but I suspect that the general public is mostly oblivious to these awards. It’s quite common for some to be lauded for their accomplishments in building a successful business empire, like Bill Gates or Sergei Brin. But it’s still rare for recognition at this level for a technical contribution.

Gosling richly deserves this honor. Java popularized object-oriented programming and introduced many important new ideas. It’s used daily by many practicing computer scientists and will probably continue to be one of the dominant languages in use for at least another decade.

When I hear Gosling the first thing that always brings to my mind is an early accomplishment. in 1981, while a CMU grad student, he released Gosling Emacs, the first implementation of Emacs for Unix. It freed a generation by allowing us to use Unix without having to suffer under vi. Parts of the program were considered so intricate and complex that hackers were warned about tinkering with them by cryptic and ominous comments in the code.